PITTSBURGH (AP) — The University of Notre Dame is displaying $575,000 worth of early American art that was stolen from a man 20 years ago, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s son.
Scott Leff and his wife filed the lawsuit last month, accusing the Indiana university of buying his father’s art collection more than a decade ago from a New Mexico dealer, who bought it from Jay Leff’s ex-wife.
Jay Leff’s ex-wife pilfered his art collection in 1996 after he filed for divorce, according to the lawsuit. Scott Leff reported the theft to Pittsburgh police that year, according to a police report included in the lawsuit. Jay Leff, a retired bank president and art collector, died in 2000.
Scott Leff is seeking the art’s return or damages equal to its current value.
“Even if Notre Dame acted innocently, unknowingly and in good faith, plaintiffs retain sole lawful title to the Leff Figurines and their property rights remain senior to those of Notre Dame,” the lawsuit said.
But the university said in correspondence with Scott Leff that he has no proof of ownership and did nothing to get the art back for 20 years.
Dennis Brown, a university spokesman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the school acquired the figurines in good faith from a reputable seller and is “confident in its ownership of full rightful title” to them.
Scott Leff’s lawyer didn’t return messages seeking comment.